“It’s Wednesday; you know what that means,” Mrs. Christian, my sixth grade teacher, said enthusiastically to the class. Everyone cheered! I let out a moan. It was art day. I hated art day. To me, art class was 45 minutes of torture. Trying to draw an image exactly as it appeared. Painting in different finishes. Depth. Perspective. All of it completely overwhelmed me. A) I wasn’t good at it (as in my work never made it on the “wall of fame”) (and, as we’ve learned, I used to quit whatever I felt I was not good at); and B) as a perfectionist, I never felt happy with the final product.
So when date 24 suggested that we go to Brush N Blush in Georgetown, I let out an internal moan. Until he told me that we could bring our own wine. Suddenly, art class seemed a bit more interesting. At Brush N Blush, participants, following a teacher and a “featured painting”, create an acrylic painting on a 16 x 20 canvas. To make the experience more enjoyable, participants can bring their own beverages (wine, beer, sodas) and their own little picnic spread of snacks. (Date 24 went all out in this department – everything from wine to chocolate covered strawberries, cheeses, meats. We were the most popular kids in class that day!) My teacher promised that I would go home with a masterpiece! I raised my eyebrow, doubtful, and took a rather large sip of wine. Then I let my brush touch the canvas.
I immediately felt that need to control creep in. I would study, in detail, the teacher’s painting and, as I tried to re-create it, I would make mistake after mistake. My tree trunks were too thick, the highlighting wasn’t right, my branches didn’t look like branches. (Seriously, look at the painting above – that’s supposed to be a branch all the way on the right!) For me, anything less than perfect was unacceptable. My teacher came by and looked over my shoulder. She started praising some of my work and I immediately responded by telling her what wasn’t going right. She told me that it didn’t need to match her painting exactly. That art should be individualized. That I should focus on my own style and make what was technically a “group painting” into my own art.
So, I sat there, sipping my wine and made myself stop painting for a moment and think about what the teacher had said. About my style. What was my “individual style?” I didn’t know. Most of my life, I’ve tried to meet the expectations of others. Trying to meet other people’s definitions of beauty, creativity, success. It hit me like a ton of a bricks in that moment. I was unable to feel satisfaction in areas of my life, because, in my own eyes I never seem to do things “well enough” to warrant that feeling of satisfaction. I wasn’t stylish enough. Smart enough. Creative enough. Thin enough. Pretty enough. I was always “flawed”. But, according to who? I realized that it wasn’t according to my own, internal, definitions.
I took another sip of wine. This time, I stopped focusing on what the other students were painting. I stopped focusing on the teacher’s painting. I stopped trying to “copy” and decided that I would simply “create”. As I moved my brush across the canvas – I played with different colors. With different textures. Different movements of my brush. Finding the combinations that made me feel good when I looked at the result. I had finished. I looked at my painting and still wasn’t sure. I saw flaws and imperfections in the strokes. So I took a few steps back. What were flaws and imperfections suddenly appeared as flourishes and impressions.
Last night, I was talking with one of the dates who told me that, while he enjoyed talking to me, the reason he had not asked me out on a second date was because he did not find me to be his type physically. Although my first reaction was to interpret that statement to mean that I was not…”______ enough” (insert whichever word you’d like into the blank), I stopped. I took a few steps back and looked at the entire picture. I understood that it was not personal. His opinions were not a reflection of me or who I am. I am a living painting. Like art, I won’t be beautiful to everyone. Not everyone will understand me. Not everyone will appreciate me. What some will find to be my flaws and imperfections, another will find to be beautiful flourishes and impressions. I am a work in progress. And not only am I the painting, but I am the painter. I have complete control over what I show the world. And I have no doubt that I will be a great work of art!
“Love is like a painting. In the beginning it is only an idea but, over time, it is built up through errors and corrections until you have a breath-taking work of art for all to see.”